Reading Material: ’80s Action Movies on the Cheap: 284 Low Budget, High Impact Pictures

A word of warning to those interested in the book ’80s Action Movies on the Cheap: 284 Low Budget, High Impact Pictures: “Cheap” is an adjective not used carelessly, so expect neither Stallone nor Schwarzenegger. Know that there is nary a Batman or Bond, and that Van Damme is more or less persona non grata. In fact, Mr. American Ninja himself, Michael Dudikoff, is as mainstream as it gets. This is the kind of book in which Reb Brown claims 14 pages, which is nothing compared to Godfrey Ho’s 36 — and if you don’t know who they are, this McFarland & Company paperback release is not for you. I happen to love it like a child.

One-half of the team behind Bleeding Skull!: A 1980s Trash-Horror Odyssey, Daniel R. Budnik has put his life on the line to suffer through nearly 300 ass-kickin’ flicks of the Reagan era, some of which actually played theatrically from coast to coast. Others, not so much, but they sure-as-shit clogged the shelves of Bob’s Video Haven (or whatever the mom-and-pop VHS rental outlet was called in your neck of suburbia). Budnik’s world is one filled with Caucasian ninjas and bikini babes, of Terminator rip-offs and Conan wannabes, of kill squads and lone wolves, of lost empires and the occasional Miami connection.

Grouped by year of release rather than letter of the alphabet, each movie covered is done so in Budnik’s no-nonsense, subject/predicate-style — short on flourish, but high in chuckles. To, uh, wit:
• On misleading titles: “Jungle Warriors is not a very good film. But it does have jungle in it.”
• On the Rambo-esque The Last Mercenary: “So they begin throwing an African child into the air and shooting him. … Who came up with this idea? And is he in prison?”
• On Andy Sidaris’ Malibu Express: “There are more beautiful women in this movie than can be reasonably counted.”
• On the Erik Estrada vehicle Light Blast: “Estrada acquits himself well and looks great in his underpants holding a turkey.”
• On Penthouse Pet turned Silk 2 star Monique Gabrielle: “Ms. Gabrielle is gorgeous and sexy as hell. But she’s as much of an action film star as Selma Diamond.”

I found that last line in particular so rib-tickling that I forgive him for mauling Yellow Hair and the Fortress of Gold director Matt Cimber’s last name as “Climber” across all five mentions (six if you include the index).

From The Great Skycopter Rescue or Robo Vampire, a lot of turds float in Budnik’s bowl of a book, front-to-back insanely entertaining. I can’t really complain that it is not a complete guide — missing are such notable bags of magnetic-tape trash as Killzone, Treasure of the Amazon, Laser Mission and Invaders of the Lost Gold; instead, I only cry out for a sequel. 9 Deaths of the Ninja is screaming your name, Danny Boy. —Rod Lott

Get it at Amazon.


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